Gauchos & River Towns: Buenos Aires Day Trips

From picturesque towns to traditional folk fairs, there are a number of scenic day trips less than two hours from Buenos Aires.

Photo © iStock/holgs

Colonia del Sacramento

A 50-minute ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, this cobblestoned gem is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. Be sure to check out the Historic Quarter (a UNESCO World-Heritage site), La Calle de Los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), Faro Lighthouse, Puerta de la Ciudadela (drawbridge), and Paseo de San Gabriel, where you can watch the sun set over the river.

In addition to Uruguayan pesos, businesses here will generally accept American dollars and Argentine pesos.

Ferry tickets can be purchased online via Buquebus, (US $80-250/$1,952-6,100 ARS round trip). Buquebus’s online platform can be tricky to navigate, but it’s advisable to reserve in advance. Ferries leavePuerto Madero three times a day.

Feria de Mataderos

This popular outdoor street fair, located on the outskirts of the city in the Mataderos neighborhood, is an hour by a public bus from central Buenos Aires.

The fair takes place every Sunday (approximately March-December). Visitors can explore gaucho culture, enjoy folk music, join in the dance performances, taste traditional Argentine food, watch a local game of pato (a sport combining elements of polo and basketball), and shop for mate (caffeine-enriched drink) cups, silver and leather goods, and other artisanal crafts.

Or pop into the Museo de Criollo de los Corrales, a small museum showcasing Argentine cowboy life (US $1.40/$30 ARS). Entrance to the fair is free, but make sure to call ahead to confirm that it’s open.

Feria de Mataderos. Photo credit: iStock/Magaiza

Tigre

Ask a porteño (local) to suggest a day trip, and chances are they’ll recommend Tigre, a small river town on the Parana Delta 20mi (32km) outside of Buenos Aires. You can get here in about an hour on the Mitre train which runs every 10 minutes from the Retiro Station for US $0.50 ($12 ARS) round trip.

Tigre’s main attraction is a boat tour through the Parana Delta, where you can soak up the lush countryside while learning the history of the area. These tours can be booked leaving from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires or, more casually and on the spot, from Tigre's river port.

Afterward, explore the ornate Museo de Arte Tigre, once a luxury hotel (US $2.50/$50 ARS). Don’t miss the Puerto de Frutos Market, a 20-minute walk from Tigre’s train station, to shop for local crafts, treats, and antiques.

Tigre. Photo credit: iStock/dorioconnell

San Antonio de Areco

Take a break from the city and spend a day discovering rural gaucho and ranch culture.

San Antonio de Areco, a small, charming town in the Pampas (fertile and flat plains) surrounding Buenos Aires, is a 90-minute drive along the famous Pan American Highway or a two-hour bus ride from the Retiro bus station in downtown Buenos Aires.

This town is famously known as the setting for Don Segundo Sombra, the 1920s gaucho novel by Ricardo Güiraldes. In the town’s Parque Criollo you’ll find the Ricardo Güiraldes Gaucho Museum, dedicated to the author and his work, as well as gaucho culture.

The town also boasts Las Lilas de Areco Museum, showcasing the work of artist Don Florencio Molina Campos, and the Museo Draghi, a private silverware collection and silversmith workshop.

Don't miss the Ruiz de Arellano main square, the San Antonio de Padua Church, and lovely Estancia La Portena de Areco, home of Ricardo Güiraldes. Be sure to stop in at La Esquina de Merti, an atmospheric pulperia (rural tavern) on the corner of the Ruiz de Arellano.

In November, this normally quiet town comes alive for the Fiesta de la Tradicion, which draws gauchos from all over the country.

Pulperia (rural tavern) in San Antonio de Areco. Photo credit: Ellen Hall

Want to know more about Argentina? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. How drinking mate defines Argentinians, how to kiss properly when you greet someone, and meet Popi, the scientist who's saving penguins.

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